365 Days of Blogging: Personal Writing Challenge ACCEPTED

I woke up late on New Year’s Day and thought about this blog and about being a writer and all of the things that that means. I want writing to be a daily habit (it nearly is). Why not challenge myself to write a blog post a day for the next 365 days? Make 2015 my Year of Blogging Dangerously? accepted2

I debated keeping it to myself, but if I post it, maybe that will keep me honest. :D

So there you go, Internet. I am unleashing my inner authorly Kraken.

Brace yourselves! IMG_4589 IMG_4766 IMG_4904

Counting down to exams . . .

The local trees are finally putting out leaves and blossoms. Took them long enough! I went to pick up dinner tonight, and caught the scent of fresh nectar or whatever it is, and at first I thought a woman wearing heavy perfume had walked by, it was that strong. Lovely.

Also explains my prickling nose and itchy eyes.

I’ve got a countdown on my class whiteboard, and the final assignments are being typed up. 14 classes remain until exams. I suspect, though, that I’ll start to feel panicky on Monday when I realize it’s June 1 and there’s still so much to do . . .

Grade 9 — we’ll start their essay on Monday, comparing three texts: the class novel, Cue for Treason, the students’ individual novel selections, and our play study, The Tempest. The students also need to clean up / edit their blog posts for the course culminating activity, and anyone exempt from writing the final exam has to decide whether to challenge it anyway.

Grade 11 — we’ll do business letters on Monday and Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. Then, we have to do basic report-writing, on a topic relating to our class novel Yes Man as well as the independent novel studies and other texts we looked at together. Similar to the Grade 9 essay, but structured differently. Plus they also have to clean up their blog posts and receive their exam review.

Writer’s Craft — they’re currently developing book trailers while I compile (and continue editing) their novel excerpts into the class anthology. Then, starting Monday, we’ll do submission letters to publishers for practice, and then they’ll be finalizing their blogs, cleaning them up, and preparing for their exit interviews. Thank heavens that course doesn’t have a final exam!

I’m not ahead or on top of my marking, so I’ve got to address that this week, too. I guess, over gardening and other stuff, that needs to be priority. I should stay at the school late at night to focus on everything and get it done. So many problems with that, though . . .

We’re all tired at this point. Tired of the routine, and the regimented days, and the demands of the system. This is another one of those times when I kind of wish I could fast-forward or experience the next month as a montage with a kick-ass soundtrack. But like Adam Sandler in Click, I’d lose out on the depth of the experience. It’s not just the marking that’s coming — it’s my son’s next karate grading, the start of soccer season, play rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park, and getting ready for Jack’s grade 8 graduation. I want to put my daughter in some summer activities, too, although we’re too late to register for a few of them. Why is it always such a struggle to find balance?

Somebody take me away . . . I need a holiday.

I wish I could sequester myself away from everything for two weeks. Imagine how much I could get done without any of the regular distractions!

I took a personal day today (booked it off last week), in part to attend a meeting about my daughter’s psychometric assessment and in part because I needed the boost. I’ve been hitting another wall, which is typical for this time of year, and if I don’t use the personal days, I lose them anyway. But I had hoped to use my day to accomplish some things while the kids weren’t at home, and guess what? I slept instead. Went to the metting, came home, conked out until lunchtime. Ate lunch and then napped again. As a consequence, I now have a bit more energy and patience than I might normally have at this time of night, which is good for getting things done.

But that would have to include not keeping up with two separate conversations at once.

I might be able to do some cleaning (other than the lizard’s tank). I could see doing that. However, it gets incredibly frustrating trying to clean while carrying on two separate conversations. Better to wait until the kids are in bed.

I just worry about the vicious cycle starting again: staying up too late in an effort to get things done, tackling overdue tasks, and then being dependent on coffee throughout the next day, crashing after work, only to scrampble to have patience and energy after the nap. This seems to be the story of my life.

School things to do:

  • marking
  • lesson planning
  • exam development (although that might mean just tweaking last year’s, or last semester’s)
  • writer’s craft anthology is ready to compile

Home things to do:

  • finish reading / checking the proof of Crystal and Wand, which should have been done two weeks ago (sincerest apologies to my publisher)
  • organize / sort stuff to be put away in the living room
  • sweeping and washing floors (or enabling kids to do that, once the floors are fully accessible)
  • garden planning (and I have to pick up top soil and compost, young plants, and do the weeding)
  • memorizing lines for The Comedy of Errors
  • planning a (potential) book release party
  • supervise sorting and folding of laundry . . . and the putting away of the laundry
  • supervise cleaning of the bathrooms
  • repair the torn cushion of our couch (thanks, Skittles!)
  • help Bridget to finish sewing her skirt and her doll clothes
  • sort and purge files
  • remove the thick layer of dust that is on everything that doesn’t get used frequently
  • budgeting and paying bills (SOOO close to having another loan paid off!)

The trouble with these lists is that a) they’re fairly perpetual, and b) even when I make a list of things to do, all it results in is pissing me off because I can’t get all the things done. I’ve been trying to focus on the priority issues, but that changes day to day. I try to focus on getting one thing done, and that helps. But then I feel pathetic for not being able to do more.

Imagine if we had a second Spring Break in May. That would mean having exams a week later, OR starting school a week earlier, at the end of August. I could really do with that change in schedule. I could do with a lot of things, though. Like a professional organizer. More storage. A system of labeled bins and drawers and shelves for all the stuff that gets left out all over the place. A place to exercise, so I can be physically healthier, too, without taking too much time away from the other stuff. I need a plan so I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore.

I am going to make a cup of tea and then try to tackle something else in the living room. Hubby’s out for the evening at a meeting, so this might be a good time to clean a bit. Clean, or proofread. A bit of both?

Update: I have made progress on my proofreading! And I feel like I’ve got some momentum, now. I’m at the 34th page of 275 (pg 28 of the story), but I’m going to make myself stop for the night to make sure I’ve got enough energy for classes, etc. But progress is good!

Me vs the Blackfly

Blackfly season has officially arrived. I’m going to look into some homemade insect repellant instructions, although to be perfectly honest, it’s not likely that I’ll actually make any of them. Too many other things on the go. But I need something — got a few bites during lawnmowing on Sunday, and Bridget has a swollen ear from playing outside and being bitten. Rotten little buggers . . . When they’re not actually feasting on flesh, they’re swarming and getting into ears and eyes and noses . . . I think I even swallowed one while I was pushing the mower, although it might have only been a bit of flying grass. Still — ick!

 

 The long, cool spring has likely set us up for a bumper season of flying annoyances. It helps me to keep in mind the relative weaknesses of these tiny torturers:

  • They don’t bite indoors, so even if one or two make their way in on clothing or animal fur, they’re not to be concerned about.
  • They can be defeated by a heat wave of several days at the end of May and into July.
  • They don’t bite (a lot) in bright sun, preferring to party in shady areas. They don’t much like nighttime, either.
  • They don’t like light-coloured clothing.

Unfortunately, the microscopic Achilles’ heel of the blackfly means compromising enjoyment of summertime, even the safety of it. Who wants to spend every day indoors when the sun is shining? And we know that it’s better to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, so stick to the shade, but that gets frustrating when lurking in the shade are hundreds or thousands of voracious little pregnant female bugs waiting for a mouthful of blood to nourish the next generation.

Huh. That sounds awfully familiar . . .

Nope. Blackflies don’t bite indoors, remember? And while a space suit might help to prevent the damned biting, it’s not the most comfortable way to spend a summer.

IMG_1478

It seems to me that the best thing to do is to wear the long-sleeved white clothing, sealing bare flesh away from the bugs as well as harmful UV rays. But doing that means missing out on the lovely pleasure of feeling the sun after a long winter, and cuts on the vitamin D. Everything in moderation, I suppose. I just don’t relish getting sweaty under long sleeves and pant legs with tight elastics, even if they’re light fabrics. The other option is slathering the exposed skin with stinky lotions, chemical or natural.

IMG_1479Here’s the thing, though: I’m the kind of person that blackflies find deeelicious. I am a moveable feast. In the past, I ‘ve resorted to swathing a straw hat with a length white tulle, and then draping that around my face and neck, in an effort to protect myself — the hat being more aesthetically pleasing than your typical camping hat. Because I honestly get made fun of when I wear a regular camping-style net hat outside for walks or garden work, and I’m sick of that. I do try to suck it up and just go along, but quite frankly, I’d rather go without the bites and the swelling and the itching.

IMG_1480 Such a lot of bother to be able to spend some time outside. At least the good news is that a rise in blackflies means we have lots of clean water around. Yaaaaay . . .

We have to choose our poison, I guess. The weapon of choice. I have lawn maintenance and a garden to tend, once I actually get my veggies and herbs in the ground (hoping I haven’t missed out on the best selection at my favourite gardening and landscaping growers), so I’m going to have to suck it up, especially when the next wave starts up.

That’s right. The blackflies may be in full swing, but the mosquitoes have barely begun to swarm.

Welcome to summer! Having written this, I think I might just go back to my Victorian-style, romantic straw hat-and-tulle, look. Might as well go back to my own sense of style — if I’m going to be bug-proof, I shall do it with flair. And I’ll have to invest in the clothing — maybe some romantic long swingy harem pants or maxi skirts with kneesocks to change things up. And the good news is that I’ll definitely reduce the risk of getting sunburns (and the potential risk of developing skin cancer later on) with all of this gear . . .

On the plus sides of volunteering

I continued breaking my pattern today! I slept in a bit, but then I had a meeting through most of the afternoon, and after getting ahead on some grass cutting (and getting Hubby to help, while the boy sorted and folded some laundry), I went to a fellow volunteer’s house to help cut up 50-50 draw tickets, and I ended up spending the whole evening there. 

Marvelous. 

I am not used to having adult-time outside of school. Normally, aside from the kids’ activities, once I’m home, I’m home. I’m in for the night. Occasionally this bothers me. I get jealous of my hubby’s involvement in his different volunteer groups, although he’s always been very appreciative of the support I give him for them. He’s told me over and over that without having his back, by being home with the kids, he wouldn’t be able to go out and help others through Victims Services, the Lodge, or Shriners. And I get that, I really do.

But some nights, I crave that grownup time. I adore my children, of course, yet we need breaks from each other. I used to volunteer a lot in high school, but my time declined in university and turned into extracurriculars after I started teaching, so in recent years, the majority of my volunteering has been with young people, relating to the school. 

I spent about eight hours today amongst adults with whom I have other things in common, working on a goal, no kids in the vicinity needing my attention or to have something explained or needing boundaries or with fights requiring mediation. 

Glorious.

I really think that getting involved in community things is essential for good mental health. I can feel the lift in myself, partly from breaking out of my typical weekend rut. Mind you, my house didn’t get any cleaner, and other stuff I have to get at didn’t get done, but at least I’m not feeling gloomy or down. My kids were a bit shocked that I was going out on a school night, but I think it’s good for them, too. 

So, if you are in a rut or need to make friends, I highly recommend taking a chance on volunteering for something, even if it’s just one night a week. Go with a friend if you’re shy. Make this summer your summer of giving back and spreading good energy in your community! 

A leap forward in making use of time

I broke my Saturday pattern today! Didn’t quite shatter it, but made a significant improvement in my usual list of activities, and without having to leave town to do it. Here’s what I did:

  • weeded the front garden
  • sorted three piles of mail
  • organized the vestibule
  • had two naps
  • took the dog and the daughter for a walk to buy garbage bags
  • put away the winter extension cords

There were quite a few other things I wanted to get done, but I count it as a victory that I didn’t sleep half or most of my day away. It helped that my son had to go to a karate workshop at 10 am, so I had to get up at a reasonable time to get him moving, too. And that the sun came out at 11 am, warming it up enough outside to be comfortable. 

I’m always so torn, at this time of year, between being outside as much as possible and using the sunlight to fuel spring cleaning on the inside. There isn’t enough time for both. I want my house to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as clean and organized, but that’s a losing battle. The outside is much easier to manage. It’s just dirt, weeds, and whatever useful plants I put in the ground. And dog poop, but I can handle that. On the inside, there’s the piles of laundry that never seem to end, the stacks of mail that ought to be sorted and filed (I’m sharing that blame with the hubby, because he’s just as bad as I am with opening and filing envelopes. I don’t open his correspondance, and he doesn’t open mine, so between the two of us, there’s a healthy pile of paper to manage!), and all the other stuff that adds up to clutter. 

The good news, though, is that my Bridget is getting better at helping out! She cleaned up her crafting mess this afternoon, without having to be told a second time, and she started cleaning her room (with the help, and perhaps urging, of her little friend Jason). And I have a promise from Jack to sort and fold ALL of the laundry this weekend for some spending money for his upcoming grade 8 trip to Toronto. I also surprised the heck out of myself on Friday evening by vaccuming the couch and finally putting the cushion covers back on — although I can’t find one of them in the laundry pile . . . Remember what I said about the losing battle, though? It’s not just the two-legged family members who are responsible for that. I found a bag of cookies (hard as a rock) and a bag of mashed-up hamburger buns in the couch, and the next morning, when I started on the love seat, I found a — wait for it — stick of butter buried between the cushion and the arm. And it’s not the first time Skittles has buried butter in the couch! But, still, we are making progress — Jack is helping out by cleaning up whatever mess the dog has made when he gets home, though I still have to ask him to do so 75% of the time. Baby steps, right?

Tomorrow, I have a meeting at 12 that will last most of the afternoon. My mission is to get more cleaning done inside and weed another patch of garden. Plus I have my marking, and I have to wrap up the edits / proofreading that are taking me far too long on Crystal and Wand — that latter has been a real struggle to complete. Doesn’t help that I’ve had more days lately where I can’t sit or stand comfortably for more than a few minutes, but the regular visits to the chiropractor are helping with that, little by little. I used a chair to help me with the weeding today, but I found that I couldn’t do much more than 20 minutes without pain. It’s hard to focus on certain things when you’re hurting. For my friends with chronic pain isues — I know I don’t have it as badly as you do, but over the last month or two, my understanding has definitely increased. 

So, goals are set and I will work on being easier on myself for not getting all things accomplished. I feel like I should be some kind of Super Woman, and it’s hard to accept that I am not. Would be much easier to be resolved either way, though.

This is why I have to go to Great Britain one day.

1. Several of my favourite books and TV shows feature elements of England, Scotland, and Ireland: Pride and PrejudiceSense and Sensibility, Harry PotterSherlock (and the Sherlock Holmes mysteries), Bridget Jones’ DiaryAustenlandThe Decoy BrideSplitting HeirsOutlanderJane EyreAll Creatures Great and SmallShawn of the DeadThe CommitmentsThe Secret GardenA Little PrincessDoctor Who . . . I read about British places over and over again — most recently, today! In my grade 11 English, we’re nearly done reading Yes Man by Danny Wallace, and he mentions* Stonehenge and Canary Wharf. Those locations were also featured on two amazing Doctor Who episodes. Coincidence? I think not!

*Danny Wallace also visits several other awesome places, not just in Great Britain — he travels to Spain, and to Singapore. I have been itching to get out my passport but I am neither single, child free, nor blessed with space on new credit cards (and he points out at the end of the book the rampant costs of those trips). Still — bucket list, people!

2. My great-grandparents on my dad’s side, and my great-grandfather on my mom’s side, were English. There are records of my dad’s family on HIS dad’s side coming over in the 19th century, having origins in Scotland, and further back, I know their forebears were in the Scottish Highlands. (And before that, they were German mercenaries hired from the mountains.) But my mother’s grandfather — he was a Home Child, and it would be interesting to try to investigate who he was, somehow. I do enjoy poring over primary source records! Imagine doing so in a lovely thousand-year-old church . . .

3. Accents. I’m a sucker for an amazing accent, be it Scottish, Irish, East End London . . . I also enjoy others, Spanish in particular (helloooo Antonio Banderas!), but there’s something about British accents that is downright homey. Comforting. There’s a link between our Canadian East Coast accent and one of the English dialects, too, and I find that really interesting to listen to (it’s not surprising, either, given the link of the fishing industry and the origins of many settlers in our Eastern provinces and territories).

4. Beer. I’m not a fan, generally, but if I were in a pub with Guiness on tap, I’d be partaking simply for the experience of it. I want the Spirit of the West experience.

*PSST — Danny Wallace, every time I read in Yes Man about your travels, this song comes to mind. Or when you’re in a pub. This might be your song. Or maybe not.

5. There are many other places I’d like to see, too. I’ve done previous posts on the places I’d like to go: Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, Australia . . . but my starting point has always been England, and maybe that’s in part due to family background. I’m totally okay with that. I wish I had a map on my wall with pins marking the places I’d been, and a piece of string linking them up, and that I could have a great big one on England that links out to all of the others. I once thought that maybe teaching could be a way to see the world, but that’s turned into more of a challenge than I’d expected it to be. Hasn’t happened yet. (YET!) It’s struck me that this point (#5) isn’t really a reason why I have to go to GB, but it marks that island of nations as being the beginning of a worldwide journey I have to make happen. If I’m ever going to travel the planet, I should go back to my own beginnings. (Thanks, Princess Bride!)

6. There are some journeys I undertake with my students, and some I undertake with my children, and some I do for myself. The latter is becoming more and more rare. I would like to go to Great Britain for myself, primarily, but also to share the experience with the kiddie winks. My own, that is. But if I took them, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do the grown-up activities that I’d like to do. Sometimes, when you’re travelling, you just want a night out on the town, for example. But if I were able to take the kids when they’re a bit older, maybe we could compromise with adults-only nights out while the elder watches over the younger. Nah, who am I kidding — like as not, by the time I can get there, they’ll be grown and gone. Bring on the nightlife! After all, I’m not getting any younger, either.

7. I feel stuck much of the time. I have to go to Great Britain — plan it, save for it, make a dream chart, what-have-you — because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in one place, hemmed in by the borders of my own nation (even though I love it and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else). I rather wish I were a citizen of the world. I want the memories and the pictures, the stamps on my passport and the feel of different ground under my feet. I want to experience communities, see ruins and restaurants and libraries and sidewalk artists and vineyards and fountains, and then come home and write about it all. Sometimes it is awfully tempting to just sell everything and pull up roots to follow the wind around the world. Starting with Great Britain, and a selfie in front of Buckingham Palace.

Every once in a while, I look into things like teacher exchange programs and things like that, but life does tend to get in the way. I’ll keep reading, and plotting, and when I finally get my student loans paid off (plus a few others that never seem to go away), I will make it happen. I’ll get my picture by Stonehenge, and Hadrian’s Wall, on Platform 9 and 3/4, in Sherwood Forest, and drinking stout in an old Irish pub. The only question is when.

A little more on 3-D Printing! Featuring: Injection Molding Company, aka 3d-printing.ninja

Hey! My family and I like watching “How It’s Made” and other origin-type videos, and seeing as I’ve had an interest in 3-D printing of late — take a look at this video about 3-D Injection Molding: 

I was recently interviewed by Injection Molding Company, which is how I obtained the link to the video — take a look at my responses here.

I keep thinking about the possibilities of this technology, both for personal use and professional development. Going to look into how teachers are making use of 3D printers in their classrooms, and what writers can do to apply it in their professions. Like printing unique / one-of-a-kind bookmarks, hardcovers for paperback books that are personalized to the author in some way, and commemorative book plates, maybe. Or hollowed-out bookends that you can fill with sand to make them heavy.

In the classroom, I could see making medals or commemorative plaques to honour students for different things, because buying awards can be a frustration. Sometimes I really want to give someone a medal or a trophy for achievement or making dramatic improvements, but trophies are expensive or else too cheap to be worthwhile. And certificates are the same. Plus, I’ve started doing gaming competitions and tried making my own plaques — totally not as good as 3-D printing one. And imagine being able to 3-D print identification tags or bracelets for field trips! Actually, I’m not sure how that would go over with teenagers . . . but it could work, if not as an identifier then as a souvenir.

What are your thoughts? How do you see writers and teachers using 3-D printers in the future?